Patrick Reed extended his Masters lead to three shots on Saturday, setting up a Sunday pairing with Ryder Cup rival Rory McIlroy
Reed, whose third round 67 included two spectacular eagles in the space of three holes on the back nine, has the chance to become the first winner of The Masters that could shoot four rounds in the 60s. But he'll have to do it by defeating an inform Rory McIlroy that's targetting his own slice of history.
The 27-year, who could become the fourth American in a row under 30 years old to win a major title (Koepka, Spieth and Thomas hold the other three), heads in to the final round with a three shot cushion.
Reed, who held the 36-hole lead, got off to a slow start with a dropped shot on the 3rd, but responded well to the pressure put on him by McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Jon Rahm, who all posted seven-under 65s during the third round. He recovered his dropped shot on the 4th, and went on to birdie three holes in a row from 8-10 to move one ahead of a charging McIlroy.
Despite bogeying both par 3s on the back nine, Reed secured his position at the top of the leaderboard with his performance on the par 5s. A wonderful second shot to the par-5 13th set up a 12 foot eagle putt, and then just two holes later he would chip in for his second eagle of the day on 15 to take a five shot lead.
He would then miss his par putt on the par-3 16th, but despite a final hole birdie from McIlroy, it's Reed that holds the commanding position heading in to Sunday as the pair face off for the green jacket.
While Reed is hoping to earn his first major title, Rory McIlroy could become the sixth player in history to win the career grand slam with a win at Augusta National. But althoug many have been quick to point out the pairing sets up a repeat of their 2016 Ryder Cup singles match at Hazeltine (where Reed got the better of McIlroy), Reed said he isn't out there to beat Rory, he's out there to beat the course on Sunday.
"I'm not out there to play Rory," Reed said. "I'm out there to play the golf course. At the end of the day, if I go out and I feel pleased with how I play, then, you know, it should be an enjoyable Sunday night."
"But really, I'm just going to go out there and enjoy the day, go out and play some golf and hopefully go out and shoot another round in the 60s."
McIlroy's echoed Reed's sentiments, but insisted that not only is it not just a two-horse race but that the pressure will be on Patrick to protect his lead, which gives Rory the chance to go and play as if he has nothing to lose.
"I feel like Patrick has got a three‑shot lead. I feel like all the pressure is on him. He's got to go out and protect that, and he's got a few guys chasing him that are pretty big‑time players. He's got that to deal with and sleep on tonight."
"I feel like I can go out there and play like I've got nothing to lose. If I can do that, I feel like I'll be okay. I mean, I don't know ‑‑ I used the term "spoil the party"; I don't know how much support he'll have compared to me or whatever, but as I said, this isn't a two‑horse race. There's still a few guys in this golf tournament, and we have to treat it that way."
The Chasing Pack
Rory McIlroy leads the chase on Patrick Reed's lead, and had a stellar day at Augusta National on Saturday. Three birdies and an eagle in his opening eight holes meant McIlroy briefly co-lead with Reed prior to his own birdie storm, but it was a memorable day for the 28-year-old nonetheless.
After back-to-back birdies at Nos. 3 and 4, McIlroy combined a slice of luck and skill as his bunker shot on the 5th caught the bunker lip, yet somehow managed to find the green. And it wasn't his only fortuious moment. He chipped in for eagle on the 8th hole to tie Reed, and memorably saved par on the par-5 13th after he needed to play from the azalea bushes behind the green.
Yet the most important moment occured on the par-4 18th, where McIlroy holed a 17-footer for birdie to reduce Reed's outright lead and tie the best round of the day (65) with Rickie Fowler and Jon Rahm - who combine for the second to last pairing on Sunday.
For Fowler (-9), the 65 was his first bogey free round at Augusta, while Rahm (-8) carded the first bogey free round of his major career.
Henrik Stenson (-7) is currently 5th, while Tommy Fleetwood comes in to round 4 in a three way tie for 6th with Bubba Watson and Marc Leishman thanks to a run of five bridies during the back nine on moving day.
The current Open and PGA Champions Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas make up the rest of the top 10 at -5, while World No.1 is one behind on -4.